BRUNSWICK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- When Mary Robinson's son enrolled at Bowdoin College, she encouraged him to participate in the school's host family program since they wouldn't be able to provide him much support from their home in England.
"Given the fact that we were an ocean away, we thought it would be a great idea if he had a local family to help him out with the logistics of summer storage, and maybe transportation to the airport, and whatever else might be able to help out with support that we couldn't give him from afar," explained Robinson.
He agreed to sign up and benefited tremendously she said, having him over for meals, showing him around Maine and becoming his surrogate family stateside.
"Our son was captain of the rugby team and he did have a concussion, and the host family happened to be there watching him play and did go to the hospital with him," she recalled. "Luckily it was nothing serious, but they were there and it was very helpful."
Mary now lives in Harpswell and is returning the favor by hosting other students of her own.
"They became, basically my second family," said Sarah Wood, Mary's host student.
Wood, a Romance Language and Art Major from Lusanne, Switzerland, doesn't live with the Robinsons, but keeps in close contact when she needs help and regularly visits for meals or just to chat.
"They have been amazing. They have been the link between sort of home life and Bowdoin life," said Wood. "They are a great first point of reference to just sort of general support, home cooked meals, they helped me get my driver's license, taking me to different venues and fairs, things that I wouldn't necessarily be exposed to with students here."
The host student program initially was for international students, but as more families and students become interested in making connections, it has grown to include many students from the US as well. It has grown rapidly from 80 students participating last year, to more than 250 this year.
"We have a student who is from Fulton, Missouri right now, and it is wonderful to be able to show him the coastline," said Margo Knight, who along with her husband David help coordinate the program. "Most of these relationships last for all four years that the student is here at Bowdoin."
"It is meals off campus. It's showing them Maine. It is going to events with them. It's as much time as they can afford to get away from their studies to give them a good time here, and to also be a local liaison," explained David Knight. "You are a friend. That's what you are, a local, adult friend."